What’s Working and What’s Not in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Services Summit Coverage: A Collective Q/A

The Services Summit is built around corporate speed-dating

Over 300 attendees make up this year's Services Summit. What's striking is there is literally no drop off - people are sticking around for the full conference.

The valuable part to blogging from  a buyer/seller (corporate speed dating) event from a business journalist’s perspective is you have deeper conversations with a focused group of individuals. Unlike a conference with on-stage speakers and panels, this type of event seems to enable you to self-direct your own line of inquiry and test market your opinions.

Here are the key topics I’ve been driving and the collective responses (drawn from about two dozen in-depth conversations throughout the summit):

Question: How does Costa Rica rate among other nearshore nations?

Answer: Costa Rica is not a lowest-cost provider. The nation’s services industry continues on an upward trajectory toward higher levels of quality, specialization and niche professional capabilities. The services sector is intentionally designed to be dynamic and the nation’s education system is in fact set up to align to business requirements now and for the next generation of market  demand.

Question: What is the hottest service sector right now?

Answer: CAD and architectural design is getting a lot of attention and the software development sector is filled with companies with a hard-core focus on differentiation and value-added service. Medical tourism, product development and patent and intellectual property research are doing well also.

Question: Costa Rica is increased looked at as a “hub” for nearshore outsourcing. What exactly does that mean?

Answer: Costa Rica is absolutely a shining light in the Nearshore region. The hub concept is starting to take shape in two ways – regional leadership (dozens of service provider companies from around the nearshore region participated in the Service Summit) and through an “aggregator” role – where business flows from client to the Costa Rica provider which manages the project/ relationship and selectively sources to other locations such at Panama and Colombia, based on need.

(My view: There continues to be a need for the Nearshore nations to come together more collectively as a block which will accelerate global awareness of the unique strengths of this region. Many observers expect CAFTA to enable some of that cooperation. Yet, to be honest, there is definitely a sense of competitiveness among the Nearshore Lions (Costa Rica and Mexico) and the Tigers (Jamaica, Colombia, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Barbados). There is more talk of cooperation than real action.

Question: Where are Costa Rica professional services providers struggling?

Answer:Without question the weakest point for many of the providers in Costa Rica (the vast majority of them have under 50 employees) is sales and marketing. These companies generally  need help developing targeted marketing campaigns and messaging that highlights their core value proposition. Reaching the US buyer is a top issue – since  (at risk of oversimplification) the practice of Nearshore outsourcing is invisible to many US clients. PROCOMER is identified by many providers as a key faciliatator of awareness-building in the buyer audience.

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